Charlottesville car attack driver James Fields, described both as a "gentle giant" by some and "hard-core pro-Hitler" by others who know him, was ordered held without bond Monday as he faces second degree murder and other charges for ramming the grey car into the crowd, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring 19 others.
As NYDailyNews.com reports, Fields appeared via video in Charlottesville court wearing a black and white collared jumpsuit. No cameras were allowed to film or photograph the proceeding. Mr. Fields was charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count of hit and run, according to local police. His only words were “yes sir” and “no sir” to Judge Robert Downer’s questions.
The 20 year old man was remembered as a quiet student by a school principal and a fellow classmate, but a former teacher said he also espoused white-supremacist views.
“From what I remember, he was a quiet and reserved student,” Michael Wilson, principal at Randall K. Cooper High School in Union, Ky. said in an email. “Our thoughts and prayers are with those in Charlottesville, Virginia. Hatred and violence is never a viable solution to any problem. As educators, we are always using teachable moments and providing guidance to students to create college, career and life ready students to make good and sound choices.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that Mr. Fields joined the Army shortly after high school and reported to basic training in August 2015.
“He was, however, released from active duty due to a failure to meet training standards in December of 2015,” Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson, an Army spokeswoman, said in an email. She didn’t elaborate on how he failed to meet standards.
“As a result he was never awarded a military occupational skill nor was he assigned to a unit outside of basic training,” Lt. Col. Johnson said.
Mr. Fields’s father died in a car accident while Ms. Bloom was pregnant, according to David Young, a former neighbor who said he knew Ms. Bloom and her son in Florence, Ky., when Mr. Fields was a young boy.
Fields' mother, Samantha Bloom, said that her son had told her he was going to a rally, which she thought “had something to do with Trump.”
A high school teacher said Fields was fascinated with Nazism, idolized Adolf Hitler and had been singled out by school officials in the 9th grade for his “deeply held, radical” convictions on race.
As a freshman, the student turned in an assignment to another teacher that expressed views that “the Nazis were good, their policies were good, Adolf Hitler was a great leader,” Mr. Weimer recalled in an interview. “In a nutshell, the white race is superior—that was the general thrust,” he said.
During Mr. Fields’s junior and senior years, Mr. Weimer taught him two classes, world civilization and a course on modern U.S. wars. Mr. Fields chose to study the Waffen SS—the military wing of the Nazi Party—for an in-depth research paper, Mr. Weimer said. While Mr. Fields did well on the assignment, it was “hard-core pro-German,” his former teacher said.
Mr. Weimer said Mr. Fields would often steer class discussions on topics that had nothing to do with Nazism to “pro-Hitler stuff, pro-white supremacy stuff.”
One high-school classmate wrote in a blog post Sunday that he remembered Mr. Fields as a “gentle giant” who was kind and shy when spoken to.
Mr. Weimer said he had a good rapport with Mr. Fields, who he said tried to marshal facts in support of his arguments and wasn’t combative toward him or Mr. Fields’s classmates.
“I used all these tricks to really ram home how evil and wrong the Nazis were, how we live in the greatest country,” Mr. Weimer said.
“I definitely feel like I failed.”